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Battleship - Hearts Addendum

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Artist: Battleship

Album: Hearts Addendum

Label: On/On Switch

Review date: Oct. 9, 2006


Battleship makes a guitar mess that seethes with nihilism. It feels akin to the sort of mid-'80s bands that hung around after hardcore's heyday, too bitter to coat tail on the proto-indie rock of Husker Du, and way too bitter for the populism of turning metal. And too agitated to stick with hardcore orthodoxy. Drunks with Guns come to mind, and more recently, the rawer singles from the A Frames. This record rolls and clatters, and sometimes sinks in its primitive recording. But squinting to discern a message is integral to this kind of loudness.

The targets might be obvious (the 50-second attack on "Suburban Sprawl") or supported by in-jokes ("San Francisco is Alright if you Like Metronomes"). But so what? They have to sing about something, and too much effort or a coherent agenda would get in the way of getting in your face. At the peak moments, they capture the quake of early Black Flag, with harmonics like doorsprings snapping over grinding bass. They know how to linger on an riff until the moment it becomes familiar, and then let it soar. Or crash. The sound stays deliberately ugly, so any turn towards the epic gets smothered by the sneering.

A line like "We're set with hospital beds" evokes a lot, though. Cryptic lyrics like that keep rising out of the din. They never quite develop into refrains. The backing changes too drastically or the delivery sinks back into the fray, and it's on to the next disaster. Battleship deal in fragments, stacking up raw riffs and images. Sections keep skidding into new directions, and there's some intricate moments, particularly from drummer Drew Eastman.

It's hardcore without the punk. Rock 'n' Roll fundamentals, sing-along threats and speedfreak momentum are left behind what's remains are short songs and frothing aggravation. A lot of bands of their ilk sound spastic. Battleship don't bounce back like that. They're like a machine shaking apart at the rivets.

By Ben Donnelly

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